With two seasons left on Troy Polamalu's contract, it will be interesting to watch the development of his potential replacement and "mini-me" (minus the hair) in Shamarko Thomas. Aside from the fact that they both play the Strong Safety position on the NFL's #1 reigning defense, the two share remarkable similarities:
- They both came out of college with reputations of being aggressive, hard hitters, who fly all around the field making plays.
- They both had reputations of being injury prone in college.
- They're both a few inches less than 6 feet tall, somewhat undersized for their position.
- The Steelers' decision makers thought highly enough of each them to trade away draft picks just to move up a few spots for the right to select them.
- Despite his obvious physical talent, Thomas seems unlikely to make an impact in his first season, similar to Polamalu's first year in the league.
- One came out of USC, the other out of 'CUSE.
- Both have long, flowing locks - one player is dreaded by opposing QBs, the other's locks, while not as long, are definitely "dreaded".
- A few other eerie similarities between the two have slipped my mind, so please add comments on any similarities you've observed.
If Thomas continues to impress Steelers coaches with his play, he'll be the hair apparent - um, make that heir apparent, to Polamalu. Unless Polamalu continues to suffer injuries, Thomas will see limited action, mostly on special teams. He may have to bide his time for 2 seasons before finally getting a crack at the starting lineup. But he'll be lurking, flying under the radar, waiting for his chance to make it big in the NFL. After the 2014 season however, Thomas's play might make Polamalu expendable like so many Steelers in years past who still had gas left in their tanks but found themselves out of jobs due to promotions of up-and-coming younger players.
That will be another difficult bridge for the Steelers to cross, and will be hotly debated among Steelers faithful. But that is then, and this is now. It's way too early to assume Thomas will a suitable replacement for Polamalu. So until then, enjoy watching the youngster develop, and don't be surprised if the Steelers allow Polamalu's current contract to expire without offering an extension.